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Letter: Settling-In of Guitars

Letter: Settling-In of Guitars

by Chris von der Borch

Originally published in American Lutherie #40, 1994



Dear Guild,

I have been constructing classic, baroque, and steel string guitars since around 1960. It is a long-term hobby of mine, as is guitar playing (in real life I am a professor of marine geology). I have made about sixteen instruments, with latter classicals being based precisely on measurements of several well-known Fleta guitars, including top thickness gradations and strut dimensions. I have used a variety of highest-quality soundboard wood (cedar, Sitka spruce, European spruce) and Brazilian rosewood. Recently I completed my first Smallman-style guitar using a wafer thin cedar soundboard (1MM) combined with web strutting of balsa and carbon fibre and a series of rather heavy internal braces to reinforce soundboard support.

Of all the above, only two are really satisfactory. One is a Sitka spruce Fleta-style guitar which matured after several years into a top instrument. The other success is the Smallman-style guitar, despite a slight fall off in “zippiness” from initial tune-up. Other guitars typically sounded brilliant, usually 24 hours after initial tune-up. This brilliance typically persisted for a couple of weeks, after which the tonal quality and sustain deadened somewhat and never returned. These guitars, on maturation, have become pleasant, run-of-the-mill instruments, but not world shakers! These observations imply, I feel, that the essential ingredients for superior tone were initially present, but a mechanical and not an acoustical problem has occurred. In short, stresses have set in, or the soundboards have lost some of their initial tension. I should add that up to now, all of my guitars have been constructed under careful humidity control and in such a way as to minimize any inbuilt stresses.

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Letter: Michigan Violin Makers

Letter: Michigan Violin Makers

by Scott Tribby, Treasurer, Michigan Violinmakers Association

Originally published in American Lutherie #33, 1993

 

Dear Sir:

The Michigan Violinmakers Association began informally in 1989, and in the spring of 1992 incorporated as a Michigan nonprofit corporation. Our members include those of us in the trade, amateur makers, and those just beginning to learn violinmaking or repair. We meet quarterly to exchange information and ideas on violinmaking and violins, tools, and other areas of interest. At each meeting there is a technical presentation, and the opportunity to view and play new instruments and the occasional important older violin. The quarterly newsletter is published the first of each meeting month.

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Letter: Thoughts on Bow Hairing

Letter: Thoughts on Bow Hairing

by Dale Randall

Originally published in American Lutherie #92, 2007

 

Dear Tim:

American Lutherie #91 is one of the best in years. Lots of good, useful, informative articles with great pictures. I especially liked the one on rehairing bows. I’m seventy-one and have been into lutherie for forty years. Rehairing can go like clockwork or drive you to drink.

I must take exception with a few of Paul Hill’s methods. He is not the first to recommend starting at the tip and working toward the frog, but this is contrary to what I have learned. The hardest work the bow hair does is nearest to the frog end, therefore the thicker base end of the hair should be on that end. I have read that the finest violinists want the hair mixed end for end so half is in one direction and half in the other, assuming that hair takes rosin better in one direction.

I also believe that one should never use hardwood for plugs and never use any glue on either end plug or wedge. I do use Paul’s method of tying and supergluing the hair to keep it together. I give mine a squeeze with opened-up pliers to make it sort of flat before it sets up, and dip the end in a little baking soda to speed the hardening. This is not to criticize Paul’s methods but to try to clear up the concept of which way the hair should be mounted. I like the way Paul shared his procedure with words and pictures.

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Letter: Installing Pegheads

Letter: Installing Pegheads

by David Golber

Originally published in American Lutherie #102, 2010



Dear American Lutherie,

A couple years ago a customer asked me about installing Pegheds/Knilling Perfection Planetary Pegs in his instrument. I read the instructions, sent by Mr. Herin, for installing them: he said to use Gorilla Glue. Now I get nervous. I’m being told to glue something into a $5000 instrument with Gorilla Glue. Hmm. I wrote to him asking how to remove them. I got no reply.

These are mechanical devices. What lifetime do they have? Ten years? Twenty? Thirty? (Thirty years is a good lifetime for industrial products.) Does the manufacturer put a warranty on them? For how long? Will the manufacturer even be in existence thirty years from now?

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Letter: Don’t Replace Bridge Plate

Letter: Don't Replace Bridge Plate

by John Higgins

Originally published in American Lutherie #41, 1995



Greetings to All-

As usual, the last issue of the quarterly was filled with loads of good stuff, with useful information available in all the articles. However, I must take exception to the premise of Bryan Galloup’s reason for replacing the bridgeplate on the 1962 D-28. He states he replaced it because “the balls on the string ends have worn all the way through (the plate) and into the top.” Had the top “bellied up” behind the bridge or sunk toward the soundhole, I would say such a repair would be warranted. Since only the ball ends are involved, I feel the better option is to install a piece of quartersawn maple, cut 0.100" thick by 5/8"×2 3/4", onto the existing plate with some yellow glue. When redrilled and slotted, it seats the ball ends properly, as well as pulling the winding back into the pin hole and off the saddle. The small amount of wood added doesn’t seem to affect the tone adversely, but helps due to the windings being off the saddle. Martin recommends this method when only ball-end wear is a factor, and I’ve found it to be very effective.

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